From a lot of perspectives, this was a bad loss for the Tampa Bay Rays. They lost 2 out of 3 to the Boston Red Sox, who are playing much better but are still the last-place team in the AL East. Now the Rays are just one game ahead of them. The Rays have now lost 7 of their last 10 games, reducing their already-slim playoff chances by a significant margin. The Rays have also now been defeated in a remarkable 13 of 15 extra-inning games. If the Rays had been simply a few games below .500 in those contests, everything could have been different this year.
But narrowing our focus to just this one game, what happened this afternoon was pretty remarkable. The Tampa Bay Rays finished with just 3 hits and just 1 in the first 11 innings yet managed to play a 13-inning contest. The pitchers were spectacular until that final frame, finishing the game with 19 strikeouts while walking just 2 batters.
Drew Smyly hasn’t found consistency since returning from his torn labrum, but we are certainly seeing the flashes of brilliance. In this game, he tossed 6 shutout innings giving up just 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 11. He was commanding his fastball to every part of the zone, and he showed enough on his curveball and cutter for that to matter. As noted on the Sun Sports broadcast, Smyly has alternated bad starts and shutout starts since coming back, and the hope is that this is the game that starts a run of more consistent success.
Steve Geltz gave up a couple of hits in his 0.2 innings, but Alex Colome was able to help him escape the seventh and then tossed the eighth. We know how bad Brad Boxberger has been in tie games, but he tossed a perfect inning with 2 strikeouts in the ninth. Brandon Gomes dealt with some baserunners, but he got past them to toss 2 shutout frames. Then Enny Romero was perfect in the 12th before giving up three straight singles with one out in the 13th. Andrew Bellatti came in but could not escape the jam, giving up a Rusney Castillo two-run single.
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The Rays would have been no-hit in this game had two things occurred: 1) Xander Bogaerts had fielded J.P. Arencibia‘s weak groundball in the third inning, and 2) the Red Sox had managed to score a run in the first 11 innings. Thankfully, neither thing took place. The Rays had precious few chances to score in this game, stranding two runners in that third inning and two more in the 10th before faltering in frustrating fashion in the 12th. A Steven Souza Jr. double gave them their first runner at second base with less than two outs, but after John Jaso was intentionally walked, James Loney grounded into a double play.
The funny thing, though, is that despite the Rays’ offensive ineptitude, the game went down to its final strike. Grady Sizemore drilled a two-out single in the bottom of the 13th to bring Asdrubal Cabrera to the plate with Evan Longoria on deck. Cabrera just missed on a mid-90’s heater and Rays fans were hoping for one more in the same spot. Instead, Cabrera struck out on a breaking ball, but the Rays were already playing with house money. They needed this win. None every victory is pretty, and when you’re trying to go on a miracle run, you better steal a few. But they certainly should not have lasted 13 innings in this one.